Exclusive Vettel Q&A: We wont repeat 2009 errors 15 Jan 2010
There will be at least six German drivers on the grid this season, and at least three - Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel - have a real chance of winning the championship. While 2009 runner-up Vettel has been tipped for success by none other than Formula One Managements CEO Bernie Ecclestone, there are concerns that Renault could struggle to supply a competitive enough engine to power his Red Bull to glory. The German, however, is confident the French manufacturer has solved the reliability issues that hampered his 09 campaign and believes the title is well within his grasp
Q: Sebastian, you have been tipped as the best bet to become 2010 world champion by Bernie Ecclestone
Sebastian Vettel: For sure it is flattering to hear such things. Its my target to win the championship as soon as possible. It is why I am here and, as always, I will give my best and fight until the very end. Its very difficult to predict anything before testing has even started, but after the first race in Bahrain we will know more.
Q: Its your turn to make it happen. What would you say were your strengths and weaknesses?
SV: I have a very strong team, which supports me 100 percent, and we really have a great atmosphere within the team. In Renault we have one of the strongest engine partners on board. They are also one of the best in terms of fuel consumption. I am sure the car will be very competitive. So far there are only positives, so lets see.
Q: The Red Bull was pretty perfect last season, but there is a big question mark hovering over the engine. Are Renault capable of delivering something competitive?
SV: Its correct that we had some engine problems during last season and there is no way to get around that. But I know Renault looked into them, and towards the end of the season we didnt have any more issues. Please dont forget that, even though everybody predicted us to have an additional engine change and to receive a penalty, we did not. So while there was nobody in a worse position, we didnt lose ground because of it and could continue to fight for the championship. We have all worked hard over the winter, not only at Renault and Viry, and have analysed what went wrong during the season, so that it doesnt happen again.
Q: Last season you were the front-running German driver. With Michael Schumacher returning at Mercedes, where do you think youll end up this year?
SV: Well, clearly I would like to be number one, but it is much more than that. A season is very long and you need to work hard to reach your own goals. I want to win the world championship, which would also mean that I would be the German frontrunner. But Im not interested in being the best of the Germans; I want to be the best of all. 2009 was a good year for me, and now I am working very hard to make this new season even better.
Q: What was your first thought when the news broke that Schumacher would return?
SV: I was surprised like all of us were I guess. I think it was a brave decision for Michael to make and one that is exciting for the sport. But in the end it doesnt change my challenge for the season, except that there is another strong competitor out there. But there are other drivers who will be very strong too.
Q: Looking at the 2010 grid you and team mate Mark Webber are up against some very strong enemy line-ups like Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa at Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at McLaren, and Schumacher and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. Which of these pairings do you think will be the toughest to beat?
SV: Out on the circuit everybody is your enemy, it doesnt matter who it is. In the end you have to beat them all.
Q: There is a new points system in place for 2010. As last years championship runner-up, what do you make of this innovation?
SV: It does several things. It rewards the competition in the middle part of the grid, now that there are more teams. It will also force drivers to continue to race, even when they have problems, because now there are points available all the way down to 10th place. But as far as I understand, it wouldnt have changed the outcome of the past couple of championships. In any case, winning and scoring points regularly is the best way to fight for the cup.
Q: We will see four new teams start from scratch this year. Red Bull joined the grid after taking over Jaguar, but they still took years to make it to the front. What do you think the four brand-new teams can achieve?
SV: You are right, it is a huge challenge for a team to start from scratch and enter F1. It will be a real achievement if they get their cars to the first race, and even better if they manage to finish the race. Realistically, it will take time for them to become properly competitive. But that doesnt mean that any existing team can relax. There may be some surprises. Lets see.
Q: Its been revealed that Red Bull are set to miss the first official pre-season test in Valencia. Are you worried about missing vital track time?
SV: Sure it's disappointing. But we will have 12 days of testing for the new car, which is plenty of time. Its much better to spend time in the windtunnel and on the design of the new car, so I am perfectly happy with this.